In a few weeks, the masses of healthcare providers, payers, vendors, government employees, trade press and others will descend into Orlando for yet another HIMSS Conference. First-time attendees can get overwhelmed and end up not taking full advantage of what HIMSS has to offer, not only the vendor exhibits and the education sessions, but also the amazing networking opportunities. I have been to more than ten HIMSS conferences now, playing various roles as a Federal government executive, vendor, speaker, and HIMSS Committee representative. Based on my experiences, I want to offer a few ideas to help you with your HIMSS19 experience.
- To maximize the value of HIMSS, do some upfront planning but be flexible. A lot of serendipity happens, so don’t get too boxed in with back-to-back commitments. Do some planning beforehand on what you want to see, who you want to hear, and who you want to meet up with. Post-conference follow-up is also important. That often gets minimized, caught between the scramble to get ready for HIMSS, the frenzy of the conference itself, and the post-conference burnout.
- HIMSS can’t really be measured by traditional ROI but there are many other ways to maximize value. For example, if you have staff attending, what can they do to help support your organization? Are there specific people or companies to connect with, education sessions that meet a need or information to bring back? Focus on ideas: HIMSS has done a good job in recent years to help members better understand Blockchain, FHIR, and AI.
- Don’t stress and get sick at HIMSS! Long days that start before dawn and endless evenings take their toll. I have seen serious burnout happen to many of my colleagues over the years. Try to have at least some semblance of balance. Recognize that you will do a lot of walking and standing, so wear comfortable shoes.
- Check out the major themes and technologies being promoted not only by the large vendors but the smaller vendors as well. The large vendors often make big announcements and issue press releases, but you can find some very interesting innovative displays by companies that aren’t widely recognized. Often these demos are located away from the more expensive real estate that the big companies claim.
- The best part of HIMSS is the ability to meet and/or network even at the cost of missing sessions or looking at the exhibits. HIMSS provides a great venue to meet with customers or potential ones in a less formal setting, engage with potential partners and others to exchange information, form alliances etc. It’s also an opportunity to catch up with people from your own company or organization who you haven’t been able to connect with either because of geographical limitations or lack of time.
- Federal Employees have unique opportunities to see Federal-focused exhibits and sessions, even though HIMSS tends to draw more heavily from the provider sector. Also:
- HIMSS provides an excellent chance to see the latest technologies promoted by the vendors and learn more about these technologies in some of the educational sessions. It’s also a great place to reconnect with former Federal colleagues, some dressed up in various vendor garb.
- Know that the vendor community has been eying you for months and will be descending upon you like flies to honey. The big players especially will want to have you scheduled for a booth tour. Be wary and selective. Stay away from specific invites to single vendor social events. Use the ethics card if necessary, to avoid potential conflicts and vendors you don’t want to talk to.
- Don’t abuse your customers. Be respectful of their time and make any time with you worth their while, not a sales pitch. Try not to hover around them when they are eating, sitting somewhere, or going to the restroom. I experienced vendor encroachment when I was in the Federal government and some colleagues chose not to attend HIMSS because of their discomfort with vendors. Be respectful after they give a presentation and try to escape from the stage.
- Look at your competitors’ booths. Have you clearly differentiated your value proposition? Look at your own booth from the eyes of a customer, competitor, or partner. Clearly identify what you want to be known by and your key differentiators.
- Recognize that the average time that most attendees spend at a booth is less than two minutes. Most are grazing, both figuratively and literally. Be aware of those who take your time but offer little value in return.
Most of all enjoy your time at HIMSS. It can be a great experience. In my next blog, I will discuss more about the key themes at this year’s event.